All the Times ‘Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels Was as Bad as Dr. Evil

“Lorne couldn’t fire anybody,” early host Buck Henry once explained. “He was constitutionally unable to do it.” And so, he got other people to do it for him.

Michaels Stopped Cast Members from Going into the Movies

These days, mellowed or just plain worn out, Michaels allows cast members to leave for half-seasons at a time to pursue other creative ventures. But for the show’s first 30 or so years? That wasn’t the case. “Lorne was hysterical that Chevy was making a movie, and he refused to give me Danny (Aykroyd) for the part of D-Day in Animal House. He refused,” remembered director John Landis. “He wouldn’t release Danny, and he told him, ‘You have to be here and write or I’m going to fire you.’” (Though presumably, Michaels wouldn’t have fired Aykroyd to his face.) 

The same thing happened on The Blues Brothers, claimed Landis, when Michaels wouldn’t release Paul Shaffer, even though he’d put the movie’s band together. 

Fast-forward 20 years and Michaels was just as restrictive. Lovitz had signed to film Mom and Dad Save the World over the summer break, but production ran long. That meant Lovitz would have to miss two weeks of the show, but Michaels wouldn’t allow it. Forced to make a choice (and convinced the movie was going to be a hit), Lovitz quit the show. “Personally, I didn’t think it was fair, because my contract was up and I thought, you know, I did a really good job for five years and I just asked him to miss the first two shows,” remembered Lovitz. “Lorne later admitted it was a mistake and he should’ve done it that way. For me personally, it’s kind of upsetting, because I really wanted to stay.” 

Perhaps Lovitz could have worked something out if only he’d offered Dr. Michaels a little something for his trouble.